China is one of the most fascinating countries on Earth and Chinese customs are beguiling, mystical and ancient. There are many Chinese customs we are all familiar with, brought to us by many Chinese immigrants over the centuries such as the red money envelope, Feng Shui, the animal astrological calendar, and of course, the New Year celebrations. But, what about some of the lesser known customs and traditions? Let’s delve into some of the less famous Chinese customs here.
This is the third largest country in the world with an area of 9,600,000 square kilometres, or about 600,000 square miles. A Westerner is not expected to understand fully the different Chinese customs, some of which are accepted more casually than others. Some are similar to the Western lifestyle such as the bringing of a gift when invited to visit. This could be fresh flowers or fruit, and if the quantity of eight is involved in the gift, this is considered an omen that brings good fortune.
It is a usual Chinese custom that when presented with a gift or reward, to leave it unwrapped but in a prominent place until it is opened privately. Should the receiver of a gift open it in front of the giver, then they could be seen as greedy and not appreciating the gift. Status and “face” play important roles in Chinese customs and society. Therefore, the type and value of gifts received by people with different status is seen as a crucial issue.
3. Guanxi (Contacts)
As in the western world, contacts (Guanxi) are regarded as a Chinese custom and an essential part of everyday life. Whether seeking a job or a favor, it is accepted that contacts are used to open doors of opportunity. However, guanxi is taken far beyond the generally accepted western norms. It is used by everyone in almost every aspect of getting anything they want, from a show ticket to a visa. This is one of the ancient customs of China and has existed for centuries and is not considered as any form of bribery. Business cards are used at every opportunity and could be considered a Chinese custom to present one to every person you meet, to further develop a chain of guanxi.
Westerners may refer to it as “Pride”, but as in most Asian countries, the Chinese custom of “Face” is a crucial and complicated factor of everyday life in that country. Unlike the West, saving face or giving face is regarded as a critical necessity. No matter whether a student in a classroom or an executive in a boardroom, the question of face is always present. To make someone else feel stupid or suffer hurt because of a careless remark or action is a loss of face for the injured party. The giving of face is presumed as being respectful and will gain the giver status.
5. Smoking in China
Among the traditions of China is one that is regarded as necessary in establishing relationships and is good for business – smoking! Another aspect is that smoking is considered bad for women, so they do not smoke. To westerners this may seem strange but in China, it is an introduction to a friendship, and the offering of a cigarette will give prestige. Although declining the offer of a cigarette is not serious, the provision is that it is done with respect and courtesy. However, in recent years, like elsewhere throughout the world, smoking has been prohibited in various public places thus making this one of the customs of China that will inevitably fade away.
6. Marriage in China
The old Chinese customs related to getting married is traditionally a complex process. In the first place, the partnership is crucial not only for the individuals but for their families. It further dictates that there are three letters associated with the commitment: a letter of betrothal, a gift letter and a wedding letter when the groom first met his future bride at her home. Following this initial procedure, six traditional forms of etiquette lead to the wedding ceremony.
7. Chinese Sensitivity
As with any other culture, various subjects could cause discomfort in a conversation. In China, custom dictates that care is taken to notice indications from people that they are uncomfortable with the topic under discussion. This could occur especially with regard to the subjects of politics or religion. Should a person suddenly become quiet and seem not to understand, or changes the subject, then Chinese custom decrees you leave this forbidden track.
Fascinating yes? Obviously China is such a massive country and there will be different customs in different areas. Many of the ancient customs of China are dying out in the ultra-modern cities – I think that’s a shame. Do you?
Top Image Source: ycorpblog.com